Tag Archive | Children’s Literature

Summer Reading: Nurses and Nannies

There were times, when my children were small, when I used to gaze at  the homes of my friends sans infants with wonder. Order and harmony prevailed. At no time was this more evident than in the summer. While my home was strewn with wet bathing suits, dirt on the floors, toys in every possible location, dishes in the sink and laundry piled in the basement, their homes exuded a sense of peace and quiet. I could actually hear the silence. However, now as an older Mom, I miss the crazy days and am longing for grandchildren. Life has its stages and each one is to be treasured.

Summers required a special kind of strategy, as we tended to be out of routine and the sun shown late into the evening hours. Before the last day of school arrived, I had my arsenal devised. Swimming lessons were a must, a survival activity, and now, even in their twenties, several of my offspring can hardly be persuaded to get out of the water.

Crafts also filled up many happy hours. One summer, the kids did a messy outdoor craft , which drew  young neighbours to join in.  On another occasion, we took the kids to a Picasso exhibit in Ottawa and then drew pictures “Picasso style.” The children found their own amusements, of course, and not always to my liking. An assortment of snakes and frogs, recruited by my son, found their way to our home. One day, while I was absentmindedly dusting our long coffee table, I found a toad at one end of it.

Summer was also a particularly good time to read chapter books. When our children ranged in age from one to twelve,  we gathered in the evenings to read Nurse Matilda (1964) by  Christianna Brand . This hilarious story of the antics of seven  unruly  children was turned into a movie in 2005, called Nanny McPhee. However, we first knew her as Nurse Matilda, an iron willed lady who with the aid of her handy and extraordinary staff, subdues  the children, wins their affection, and assists in averting several  disasters. In the way of all magical caretakers,  Nurse Matilda disappears at the end of the story, but not before the family is settled in a happily ever after fashion.

Another book which has its place of fame in our family is The Old Nurse’s Stocking Basket (1931) by Eleanor Farjeon. My youngest daughter, Susanna (in her late teens now), and I still read the stories out loud to each other. “‘Children,’ said the Old Nurse, ‘stop quarreling, or you know what.’” This gentle threat was sufficient because “you know what” meant there would be no bedtime story. The Old Nurse’s method of story telling is unique. While she narrates her poignant and fanciful tales, she mends the children’s stockings. A little hole means a short story and a big whole means a long one. It isn’t hard to guess which type the children like best. Susanna and I especially love the very last tale, The Sea-Baby, a haunting story of childhood and the realization that  growing up may involve letting  something precious pursue its own destiny.

Keep cool and safe and enjoy these hectic but memorable summer months. Tell me about some of your favourite children’s books!


5 X Mama, Happy Mother’s Day!

Head Shot   I looked at my young daughter, her stomach artistically decorated with bright markers. There was no doubt in my mind as to what had inspired her. The night before, we had read Purple, Green and Yellow by Robert Munsch, a children’s story  in which the heroine, Brigid, “…colored her belly-button blue. And that was so pretty, she colored herself all sorts of colors almost entirely all over.” The artwork faded from my daughter’s skin, but  her passion for books continued.  Now, as an adult in her twenties, Andrea  devours books, even if she refrains from plastering her belly-button with markers!

As a 5 X Mama, with four daughters and one son, I am convinced that one of the most important things you can do for your children is to read to them. Books have always played a huge role in my own life. My mother said, that as a child, I carried a book with me on outings, instead of a doll. Libraries were like treasures mines, complete with enticing covers, intriguing titles and dramatic tales. By the time I was eleven, I managed to talk the children’s librarian of our local library into hiring me as a page, to put books away and do other small duties. Finally, I entered the classroom as an   English teacher, sharing novels, poems and drama with teenagers, before embarking on another exciting career, as a 5 X Mama. Naturally, books were right, left and centre in our home.

My husband shared  my passion. When our babies were born, he read and re-read The Lord of the Rings trilogy, while he rocked fussy infants to sleep, and generously gave me some rest. Then when they were older – but not much older – he read the trilogy to them. When our youngest daughter turned 18 last November, her older sister, who once coloured her tummy-button, did much of the work planning a surprise Lord of the Rings theme party for her, complete with costumes, decorations and special food such as “orc pudding.”  My husband, dressed up as Gandalph, read to his now adult children, from one of Tolkien’s books.

All of our lives we tell ourselves stories, and we share those stories with others. Words have the unique ability to create, to empower, and ultimately to determine the course of our days. When children hear a wide variety of stories, the possibilities for creative and imaginative excursions are endless. Through stories, children learn how to respond intelligently and sensitively to the many influences and circumstances of their lives. They learn to look beyond themselves to the needs of others and to relate compassionately to people different from themselves.

In  5 X Mama, one of my goals is to share some of the wonderful stories I enjoyed with my own children, as well as to explore newer books. The possibilities are endless and in this age of digital distractions, it is perhaps more important than ever, that books make an immediate and emphatic presence in children’s lives. Besides all of this, reading books with children is just plain fun and gives parents, grandparents and educators opportunities to connect and converse, that would perhaps otherwise be lost.

the mothers day mice

An enchanting Mother’s Day book to share with your little ones is The Mother’s Day Mice by Eve Bunting. Three mice, Biggest, Middle and Little, go on a private adventure to find just the right gift for their mother. In spite of courting near disaster with a cat, each finds something special. Little discovers the best gift within himself  and in a spirit of generosity says that his present is from them all! Jan Brett’s detailed and colourful illustrations perfectly complement the text.

Do you have books you treasured as a child or enjoy reading to your children? I would love to hear about them! Have a memorable and blessed Mother’s Day!

Disclaimer: Copies of books discussed are my own or from the library, unlessotherwise stated.